Special Report

American Cities Where Residents Have the Biggest Vocabulary

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There are about 470,000 words in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary combined, though it’s estimated that only about 170,000 are used frequently. And while the average American adult is said to speak a total of between 7,000 and 20,000 words a day, the typical number of unique words spoken – which may be as few as 1,000 a day – varies from city to city. (Here are 32 words people misuse all the time.)

To compile a list of U.S. cities where residents have the biggest vocabulary, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a report by LetterSolver, a site that helps people find commonly used words in word games. They analyzed millions of geotagged English-language tweets. After that they selected tweets written in English, reduced the different forms of a word to a single form, and divided all words into samples of 1,000. After that, the number of unique words was obtained and the mean number of unique words for each city was calculated. Only cities with at least 250,000 residents were included for consideration.

The 35 U.S. cities where residents have the biggest vocabulary are represented in 22 states. Many of the cities are in the West and the South. California – the nation’s populous state, and also among America’s most ethnically diverse – has the most, with seven cities, three of them in the top 10. And the city that has the largest vocabulary of all is San Francisco. 

Click here to see the U.S. cities where residents have the biggest vocabulary

LetterSolver reported that a linguistic team attempted to “co-create a new lexicon for a time of climate change, biodiversity collapse and other transformations in the natural world” based on the San Francisco area’s experience of coastal erosion and rising tides. They coined the words sandulate (“to understand that the coast is alive, and we can’t just build the solid structures that we have”) and mientierra (“a false sense of solid ground beneath us”). (Here are some old words we use today but with completely new meanings.)

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35. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 457.8
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 33.2%
> Median household income: $59,214
> Population: 687,691

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34. Nashville, Tennessee
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 458.1
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 46.1%
> Median household income: $64,857
> Population: 678,845

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33. Phoenix, Arizona
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 458.6
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 32.8%
> Median household income: $68,435
> Population: 1,624,539

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32. Santa Ana, California
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 458.8
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 18.5%
> Median household income: $80,265
> Population: 309,468

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31. Plano, Texas
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 459.4
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 59.1%
> Median household income: $95,002
> Population: 287,037

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30. Los Angeles, California
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 459.7
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 37.3%
> Median household income: $70,372
> Population: 3,849,306

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29. Denver, Colorado
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 459.7
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 55.0%
> Median household income: $81,630
> Population: 711,463

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28. Reno, Nevada
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 459.9
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 35.9%
> Median household income: $67,478
> Population: 268,843

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27. Colorado Springs, Colorado
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 460.3
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 42.8%
> Median household income: $74,579
> Population: 483,969

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26. Indianapolis, Indiana
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 460.7
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 34.7%
> Median household income: $58,479
> Population: 882,327

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25. Anchorage, Alaska
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 461.1
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 38.3%
> Median household income: $86,654
> Population: 288,121

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24. Chandler, Arizona
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 461.2
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 47.3%
> Median household income: $94,613
> Population: 279,445

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23. St. Louis, Missouri
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 461.3
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 38.9%
> Median household income: $49,965
> Population: 293,310

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22. Tulsa, Oklahoma
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 462.3
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 35.3%
> Median household income: $51,008
> Population: 411,905

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21. San Diego, California
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 462.6
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 48.8%
> Median household income: $93,042
> Population: 1,381,600

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20. Oakland, California
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 464.9
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 46.8%
> Median household income: $82,236
> Population: 433,797

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19. Tucson, Arizona
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 465.3
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 29.1%
> Median household income: $50,306
> Population: 543,215

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18. Honolulu, Hawaii
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 466.0
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 39.9%
> Median household income: $73,434
> Population: 345,532

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17. Albuquerque, New Mexico
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 466.0
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 38.5%
> Median household income: $58,512
> Population: 562,591

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16. Austin, Texas
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 466.3
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 59.9%
> Median household income: $79,542
> Population: 964,000

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15. Lincoln, Nebraska
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 466.5
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 43.0%
> Median household income: $62,294
> Population: 292,648

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14. St. Petersburg, Florida
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 466.6
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 40.7%
> Median household income: $64,141
> Population: 258,214

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13. Portland, Oregon
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 466.9
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 54.3%
> Median household income: $79,057
> Population: 642,218

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12. Madison, Wisconsin
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 467.4
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 58.9%
> Median household income: $67,270
> Population: 269,162

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11. Boston, Massachusetts
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 467.9
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 52.5%
> Median household income: $79,283
> Population: 654,281

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10. Seattle, Washington
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 469.2
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 46.8%
> Median household income: $101,721
> Population: 4,011,553

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9. St. Paul, Minnesota
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 469.4
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 42.0%
> Median household income: $66,098
> Population: 307,176

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8. San Jose, California
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 469.8
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 45.8%
> Median household income: $126,377
> Population: 983,530

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7. Irvine, California
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 470.9
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 68.3%
> Median household income: $105,774
> Population: 309,014

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6. Durham, North Carolina
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 471.1
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 56.9%
> Median household income: $71,343
> Population: 285,439

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5. Raleigh, North Carolina
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 472.4
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 53.9%
> Median household income: $74,612
> Population: 469,502

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4. Mesa, Arizona
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 472.8
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 32.3%
> Median household income: $69,266
> Population: 509,492

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3. Washington, DC
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 474.7
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 63.0%
> Median household income: $90,088
> Population: 670,050

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2. New York, New York
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 476.1
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 41.0%
> Median household income: $67,997
> Population: 8,467,513

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1. San Francisco, California
> Unique words for every 1,000 spoken: 477.1
> Adults with at least a Bachelor’s degree: 60.9%
> Median household income: $121,826
> Population: 815,201

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